Instagram’s hidden like counts test has been a source of much debate since the platform first announced the trial back in April last year.
Why would Instagram do this? What will the impacts be on measurement? Will it cause people to post more or less as a result?
Thus far, Instagram hasn’t provided many answers, but this week, we got a little more insight into the thinking behind the test, and its current impacts, via Vishal Shah, Instagram’s VP of Product, who took part in an interview on ‘The Social Media Geekout’ podcast, which is hosted by social media expert Matt Navarra.
The interview is well worth a listen for anyone looking to get a better understanding of Instagram’s internal thinking, on many aspects, but on the hidden like counts test specifically, Shah provides an overview, and some explanations to help clarify where they’re at.
Shah first notes that the origin of the hidden like count test came from internal feedback from its various teams.
“This one came from the team that works on interactions and feed, so this team is incentivized to try to drive more likes [and] more comments, but in all of their user research, they heard so loud and clear that people felt like the public like count was a very high area of pressure for them when they produce content on Instagram […] the act of expression itself is what we cared about, not the validation, or perceived validation, that a public like count gets people.”
Shah says that when Instagram was first launched, a public Like count made sense (“that was sort of a norm at the time”), but now, particularly when you consider the rise of the Stories format, public engagement metrics are no longer the things that drive behavior.
“If people were deleting the stuff that they posted to feed because they felt like they were competing with themselves [or] they were competing with public figures and celebrities and influencers that they felt they could never be on an even playing field, we thought this was one of the most effective ways to even that playing field and remove some of that pressure for performing.”
Shah says this is one of the biggest changes that they have ever sought to make, and the reason that it’s taking so long to test is because Instagram’s internal team needs more time to be able to measure the true impact of the update before moving ahead. With such a significant change, Shah says, some shifts in behavior will occur in the short-term, but to really understand the behavioral effects, you need a longer time frame to see whether it’s actually altering usage.
And while he doesn’t go into depth about the results they’ve seen thus far, Shah does provide this little indicator of what’s happening:
“We knew going into this that we would likely have to trade-off some amount of engagement to do this work, and we are very comfortable doing that if in the end it makes people more comfortable expressing themselves and sharing on Instagram.”
That would likely suggest that they are seeing a reduction in post engagement in regions where like counts have been removed.
That test is confined to influencers only, but based on Shah’s comments, this may well be indicative of the broader trends – that people are, in fact, seeing less engagement on their posts, overall, as a result of like counts being removed.
What Shah doesn’t note, however, is how Instagram is measuring the relative success, or not, of the test.
How will Instagram decide if it’s ultimately a success or a failure, and what metrics is it looking to improve as a result of the trial?
If there’s a reduction in the amount of people deleting their posts, is that an indicator of success?
One recent report suggested that the actual aim of Instagram’s hidden likes test is less about user wellbeing, as such, and more about getting users to post more often. CNBC reported last month that, according to three former Instagram employees, internal research at the company suggested that hiding like counts would “increase the number of posts people make to the service, by making them feel less self-conscious when their posts don’t get much engagement”.
That makes some sense, and as a side benefit, maybe it also reduces that performance pressure which Instagram is using as the main impetus for the change. Less pressure, more content – Instagram wins in the long term, and in that sense, it’s possible that increased post frequency per user is the key metric that Instagram is looking at in order to measure the ultimate success or failure of the trial.
Shah says they haven’t made a decision at this stage as to whether the test will be rolled out to all users, but he notes that they remain excited about the project, and that they will continue to push forward with the test.
In addition to this, Shah also discusses the development of Instagram’s ‘Threads’ messaging app, the expansion of messaging access to the desktop version, and the future of the app more broadly. Shah shares a lot of interesting notes – if you’re looking to get a better understanding of the platform and where it’s headed, you can (and should) check out the ‘Social Media Geekout’ podcast here.
So nothing concrete on the future of hidden like counts as yet, but it’s interesting to consider what these insights mean for the current impacts, as well as the motivations behind the actual implementation and success of the test.
Instagram’s Working on New Stickers That Would Enable Users to Promote Business Profiles in Stories
Instagram looks to be testing a new Stories sticker option which would enable users to share a business profile with their followers, including a header and a three-image preview that links through to a brand’s on-platform presence.
As you can see in this example, shared by reverse engineering expert Jane Manchun Wong, the new ‘Share Professional’ sticker would enable users to add in an Instagram @profile, which would then pull in thumbnails of the most recent three posts from that account. That preview could then be used as a promotional tool in Instagram Stories – you could promote the business of a friend, a service that’s helped you out, or maybe a local SMB that’s struggling during the COVID-19 shutdowns.
That’s likely the focus of the tool. Instagram has been looking for more ways to help promote small businesses that are suffering because of the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this month, Instagram added new gift card, food order, and fundraiser tools, both for Stories and profiles, in order to provide more ways for brands and their communities to support local SMBs.
The ‘Share Professional’ sticker seems to align with this, while beyond COVID-19 it could also provide another, simple way for users to share tips on businesses that they like via their Stories.
It could be a valuable tool to consider. There’s not a heap to go on at this stage, but given the rising popularity of Stories, it could provide another, simple avenue to help raise awareness of your business on Instagram, and get more attention for your account.
You could ask your satisfied customers to share a link, you could use it within promotions – if it is eventually launched, there’s a range of ways in which it could be utilized to good effect.
Instagram hasn’t provided any info on the tool, but based on how far along it appears to be in the above screenshots, and going on Wong’s past record for such discoveries, it looks set to be announced sometime soon.
How to market your photographs on Instagram
One of the most popular social media platforms is Instagram through which various users express their views and talents through videos and photos. It is also a platform that is widely used by professional and amateur photographers to show off their talent in photography. For a photographer, Instagram is the best platform to showcase his or her photographs and gain popularity. The more Instagram followers you get, the more popular you will become.
Instagram is also a great platform to promote your business and attract clients and customers across the world. So, if you have not started on this social media platform yet, then you start it doing so right now. Here is how you can market your work on Instagram.
Create your Instagram Account
This is quite a simple and easy thing to do – create an Instagram account. It is an app can be easily downloaded on your phone. Registering to the platform is as easy as registering to other social media platforms. You can create two accountson Instagram – personal and business. If you are looking at Instagram for business purposes, then you should open a business account that has more features than the personal account.
However, you can also combine both professional and personal accounts together or keep them separate. Instagram allows its users to create multiple accounts and have access to all of them at the same time. To promote your business and keep your personal life restricted to your friends and family, then it is best to keep them separate.
You should also make sure that your bio speaks about you and your work. Also, ensure that it is short and not lengthy. You can take some ideas from other Instagram accounts of photographers if you are not sure how to do so.
What should you Post on Instagram?
The first thing to do before you post your photos on Instagram is to choose the best photo from your collection. Your photos posted on Instagram should be able to speak about your work. You can either edit your pictures or simply put them the way they are. If you are planning to edit the pictures, then you can do so on Instagram itself. But for more professional edits it is best to use your own software.
You can use themes to post your photos on a weekly or daily basis. Using the storyline for uploading photos on Instagram is also very popular among photographers.
How to Increase your Fan Following
If you are looking for some good numbers of Instagram likes, then ensure that you use as many popular hashtags as you can. Using hashtags attracts users who can get access to the photos or posts under those hashtags. If your photos are good and grab the attention of the Instagrammers, then you are surely going to get some huge number of likes.
Instagram needs to be live and active to keep the interest of the followers or other Instagrammers. Hence, make sure that you are posting your photos on a regular basis and also interacting with the followers. The more interaction you have with them, the more they are going to visit your account.
Facebook, Instagram and YouTube: Government forcing companies to protect you online
Although many of the details have still to be confirmed, it’s likely the new rules will apply to Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Snapchat, and Instagram
We often talk about the risks you might find online and whether social media companies need to do more to make sure you don’t come across inappropriate content.
Well, now media regulator Ofcom is getting new powers, to make sure companies protect both adults and children from harmful content online.
The media regulator makes sure everyone in media, including the BBC, is keeping to the rules.
Harmful content refers to things like violence, terrorism, cyber-bullying and child abuse.
The new rules will likely apply to Facebook – who also own Instagram and WhatsApp – Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok, and will include things like comments, forums and video-sharing.
Platforms will need to ensure that illegal content is removed quickly, and may also have to “minimise the risks” of it appearing at all.
These plans have been talked about for a while now.
The idea of new rules to tackle ‘online harms’ was originally set out by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in May 2018.
The government has now decided to give Ofcom these new powers following research called the ‘Online Harms consultation’, carried out in the UK in 2019.
Plans allowing Ofcom to take control of social media were first spoken of in August last year.
The government will officially announce these new powers for Ofcom on Wednesday 12 February.
But we won’t know right away exactly what new rules will be introduced, or what will happen to tech or social media companies who break the new rules.
Children’s charity the NSPCC has welcomed the news. It says trusting companies to keep children safe online has failed.
“Too many times social media companies have said: ‘We don’t like the idea of children being abused on our sites, we’ll do something, leave it to us,'” said chief executive Peter Wanless.
“Thirteen self-regulatory attempts to keep children safe online have failed.
The UK government’s Digital Secretary, Baroness Nicky Morgan said: “There are many platforms who ideally would not have wanted regulation, but I think that’s changing.”
“I think they understand now that actually regulation is coming.”
In many countries, social media platforms are allowed to regulate themselves, as long as they stick to local laws on illegal material.
But some, including Germany and Australia, have introduced strict rules to force social media platforms do more to protect users online.
In Australia, social media companies have to pay big fines and bosses can even be sent to prison if they break the rules.
For more information and tips about staying safe online, go to BBC Own It, and find out how to make the internet a better place for all of us.